Reviews of Teen Books

The Bell Jar
Plath, Sylvia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Sylvia Plath creates vivid,realistic and gripping narrative in The Bell Jar in order to depict the harsh treatment of both women and the mentally ill.
The story follows Esther Greenwood, who is a young and successful woman, slowly descending into madness. It chronicles her interactions with men, other young women, and her mother, and how those things had contributed to her becoming mentally ill.
This book is easily one of my favorites. Throughout the entire story, the readers are in Esther’s mind. We see first hand how she becomes insane.
Sylvia Plath has such an intense and realistic writing style that Esther’s actions almost seem rational. It makes us question our own sanity. This book definitely had the best portrayal of mental illness I have seen so far. It also deals with other intense themes such as the treatment of women in society. Despite these themes being severe and somewhat terrifying, the book remains eloquent and lyrical. The Bell Jar is provocative and heart wrenching at the same time, and I believe it is one of the best books ever written.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L
Genres:
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lee, Harper
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

“It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”. Harper Lee writes a beautiful and provocative narrative in To Kill a Mockingbird in order to create a conversation about relevant themes that affect our world. The story follows Scout and her brother Jem as their father, Atticus, defends an African American man named Tom Robinson in court for raping a young white woman.
Meanwhile, the children meet a new boy named Dill, and are curious about their neighbor, “Boo” Radley. The book deals with intense themes such as racial injustice, class, and growing up.
When I first read this book in 9th grade, I didn’t care too much for it. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t think it was something that I could read again.
But I was wrong. While re-reading this book, I discovered why it is a classic. The book deals with serious issues while still remaining eloquent and poetic. I adored Scout’s character and her development seen through her interactions with Boo Radley. I thoroughly enjoyed Harper’s writing style and her ability to create distinct and well rounded personalities for each of her characters. I believe that this book should be read both in schools and outside of them because of its powerful and controversial narrative.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L
1984
Orwell, George
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

George Orwell depicts a horrific and terrifying alternate reality of 1984.
After years of war and conflict, the world is governed by three totalitarian regimes. The one that our main character, Winston Smith, resides under is ruled by the “party” and its leader “Big Brother”. The narrative follows Winston as he meets a mysterious woman named Julia, and the two begin to secretly rebel.
When I first started reading this book, I was a little bit disappointed. I had such high expectations (I think that was the problem) ,and it just didn’t live up to them. In the beginning, I thought Winston’s character was somewhat flat, and I didn’t feel a lot of sympathy for what he was living through. I thought Julia was unrealistic and a bit obnoxious. But in the second half of the book, my opinions had changed. The book becomes quite disturbing, and it makes you question what is actually real and what is just a fabrication of the party. It’s terrifying to say the least. Despite the fact that I enjoyed parts of this book, I have to rate it 3 stars because I wasn’t engaged in the first half of the narrative.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L
Awards:
Frostfire book cover
Hocking, Amanda
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A hidden kingdom lies deep within a snow-covered wilderness, a kingdom filled with beautiful Kanin people who have dark hair and dark eyes. Bryn Aven is an outsider a half-blood, she stands out with her blond hair and blue eyes. Her only dream in life is to prove her allegiance to the Kanin kingdom and become a royal guard. As she struggles to prove she can be a guard, Bryn falls in love with her ruggedly handsome boss Ridley Dresden. Although both of them share feelings for one another their relationship is strictly forbidden.
Bryns journey continues as she must fight for the kingdom in a terrifying battle and the love of her life.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Madison S
Genres:
The Fault in Our Stars book cover
Green, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Nobody was more devastated than Hazel Grace’s mother when Hazel was diagnosed with lung cancer. Hazel was forced by her mom to attend a support group for cancer patients because her mom thought it would be beneficial for her mental health. At first Hazel was not excited to be in a support group, that is until she meets Augustus Waters. Augustus is a young man who had lost his leg to cancer, but through all of his hardships uses cancer for the basis of his sarcastic humor. Hazel and Augustus hit it off, and enjoy the bliss of a whirlwind romance. However, their happiness is cut short by a sudden tragedy that leaves one of them in total despair. And as John Green writes in this novel “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
Reviewer Grade:12

Reviewer's Name: Madison S
If I Stay book cover
Forman, Gayle
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A tragic story, reflecting the struggle of a girl who clings to life. This novel brought many tears to my eyes as I read it. The main character Mia and her family had just been in life threatening car crash; when in the hospital Mia wakes up but outside of her body. She is faced with a heartbreaking
decision: to stay and live, or to die and leave. Mia while in this conscious drift apart from her physical body re-lives all the life changing moments of her past and witnesses all of her relatives and friends as they come to the hospital to potentially say goodbye. Mia is then faced with the decision of whether she should stay. Sadness, memories, romance, heartbreak, the novel If I Stay has it all.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Madison S
Tuesdays with Morrie book cover
Albom, Mitch
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Tuesdays with Morrie is the most moving and sentimental novel I have ever read. The first person narrative told by the author Mitch Albom, walks through Albom’s life changing journey with his old college professor, Morrie. Albom spends a series of Tuesdays learning from Morrie, who had been diagnosed with ALS and has a very limited time to live. In this true story Morrie Schwartz speaks valuable truth and offers insight into what is important in life and why he wasn’t scared to die. My favorite quote from the novel is “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” Tuesdays with Morrie teaches all its readers how important everyday truly is, and how to not take life for granted.

Reviewer Grade:12

Reviewer's Name: Madison S
Awards:
Plague book cover
Grant, Michael
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The thrilling Gone series continues with this fourth book, and Grant does not disappoint. This series has been one of my favorites and Plague is no exception. As a highly contagious, fatal illness spreads at an alarming rate and predatory insects terrorize Perdido Beach, morale continues to drop.
However, Sam, Astrid, and even Caine are determined to find a way to survive.
Everyone must make difficult decisions when it comes to saving themselves and those they love. Grant has written another phenomenal dystopian horror with suspense around every corner. I highly recommend this book to all high school aged readers.

Reviewer's Name: John B
Bob

Bob

Mass, Wendy, Stead, Rebecca
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is about a girl who goes to her grandma's house after not being there for five years. She finds a small goblin named Bob awaiting her arrival. The two set off on an adventure to find Bob's family before they forget each other forever. This is a great story about the power of friendship. Rebecca Stead writes many amazing books and this is one of the best. This is a book that will leave you wanting more unable to put it down.

Reviewer's Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: McKenna B
The Secret Life of Bees
Kidd, Sue Monk
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Phenomenal. That is one of the best words I can use to describe this book. The secret life of bees is an amazing story about a girl who leaves her abusive home with her housekeeper (1950s-60s era) and finds herself living with three sisters who make honey. A story bursting with vivid description and creative storytelling, the secret life of bees draws you in and keeps you there until you are suddenly done with the book. Truly an amazing story that shows that the family you're born with isn't always the family you end up with.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K
Genres:
The Wishing Spell
Colfer, Chris
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Two twins Alex and Conner were at their school in their Language Arts class.
Today's lesson was on fairy tales. Alex was more kind of that girl who was a total geek and paid attention to everything in class, while Conner was more of the guy who sat in the back and snoozed off. That day after school they went to their grandmother’s house where their grandmother read them a book.
And it was not any book its was a book called the Land of Stories. One day Alex takes the book because she wanted to read it and then gets accidently sucked in! Alex and Conner have to make a Wishing spell to get out of the book. The rest of the book is the amazing adventure that awaits! People who like the show Once Upon a Time or people who just like fairy tales and have great knowledge in them will like this book and the series. This book is very unpredictable and will have you wanting to read more. This is one of the best books I have read this year!

Reviewer Grade: Grade 8

Reviewer's Name: Pranav M
The Problem with Socialism book cover
DiLorenzo, Thomas
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In this seemingly uninteresting yet brightly covered book lies an abundance of information. In just 192 pages, DiLorenzo is able to highlight what looks to be every possible problem with socialism. He does not just point out what he thinks to be problems, however. He then goes on to back up every argument made in this book with true, real life evidence or facts with credible sources, such as in the 1970s when Chile adopted socialism and destroyed it's own economy. To keep the sinking ship that was the economy going, Chile printed massive amounts of money and kept it's destroyed economy going (barely). At times this book can get a bit technical, but that can be expected of most nonfiction novels. Overall, this book was an very informational read and an eye opener on the problems with socialism and the people who support it.

Reviewer's Name: Kyle Y
Genres:
Murder Among the Pines
Reynolds, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This mystery novel tells the story of a police chief who is responsible for investigating the death of a young woman. She slowly tries to piece together the pieces of the puzzle in order to clear the name of her innocent ex-husband. This story is told in a very fluid manner. At no point does anything move too fast to understand, but nothing is unexpected either making the story a tad less interesting than some other mystery books.
Overall, it is still a really good book if you're looking for a non-horror mystery novel.

Reviewer's Name: Kyle Y
Genres:
The Bridges of Madison County
Waller, Robert James
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Bridges of Madison county is a tear jerking love story. It tells of a middle aged photographer who is sent to photograph some of the bridges of Madison County, Iowa. On his lonely journey, he meets an old house wife whose children and husband had gone on a trip. The story tells of a love with a burning passion that happened too late. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a beautiful romance story detailing a beautiful relationship that could never be. Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Kyle Y
Awards:
The Caller
Krzyzkowski, Dan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This thriller is one of the best page turners ever made. It had me on the edge of my seat in fear and excitement. A phone operator who works for a call-a-friend program made for lonely children finds herself in charge of protecting a young boy's life after he called, reporting hearing men in his house. Though I have read few, this is one of the BEST thriller book I have ever read. The intensity of some situations will have you glued to the book.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a interesting thriller that won't be longer than a 3 day read.

Reviewer's Name: Kyle Y
Book Review: The Guinevere Deception
White, Kiersten
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Premise: Guinevere died in the convent where she'd been sent by an her father. An imposter, Merlin's daughter and Arthur's new protector, is her replacement, and all have been fooled into thinking she's the "real" Guinevere, save Arthur, who she immediately marries and starts to protect.

I found the beginning of the book, with its delicious hints of a larger story of evil and darkness, to be captivating. Unfortunately, those hints, for the most part, stay hints, and the book ended up being a pretty predictable retelling of sorts that was paradoxically too faithful and not faithful enough to its predecessors. It had glimpses of the humor from Mallory, T. H. White and Steinbeck. It had the promise of the adventure that lies in those tales. It just never fully delivered. And the end, when it finally came, was predictable enough to be a bit disappointing.

That said, I do love Arthurian legend, and this version of Guinevere is not without promise. If the next entry gets great reviews, I'll give it a go as my familiarity with the characters and story would render a re-read unnecessary. 3 stars. I...liked it? I'll recommend it to younger readers new to the legend.

Thanks to Netgalley and Delacorte for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Guinevere Deception will be on sale on 05 November, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: A River of Royal Blood
Joy, Amanda
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Eva's nameday is coming up. And on that day, she'll become a Rival Heir. From then on, she'll be expected to try to kill her sister (or die in the process), so that one of them could take the throne. Eva's always been her father's favorite, but in this matriarchal society, her mother, the Queen, who, of course favores Eva's sister Isadore, would do anything to make sure that Eva doesn't get the throne. Including helping Isa with her magic while trying to keep Eva from accessing hers. But the throne is Eva's destiny. It's that, or death.

This was another instance of the plot being hard to describe, though that's mostly due to the fact that there are so many things happening in this book. It's pretty complicated. Not in a bad way - I really enjoyed it. The worldbuilding was very cool, I loved the khimaer. A lot of it was new to me, or a fun twist on a familiar concept. I loved the book's mythology. Something about it felt fresh. I also bizarrely really liked the middle part of the book - its full of layered mysteries, court intrigue, training montages and the right amount and type of romance. It's built on mutual and earned respect (and yes, hotness). There's a lot to like in this book, and it won't be the last by this author that I read.

That said, the beginning and ending were rote and felt a bit weak. The end, in particular, felt like it existed only to get you to read the next installment. There was no resolution, and it felt very rushed, especially after a story that was otherwise taking its time unfolding. I don't want to spend a lot of time criticizing what was otherwise a fun read - give it a go!

TLDR: This was so close to being really good, but it just missed the mark (rote beginning and ending, super strong middle and worldbuilding). I quite enjoyed it, nonetheless. 3.5 stars - I almost really liked it. :)

Thanks for the eARC Netgalley and Putnam for the advance copy! A River of Royal Blood will be available for purchase on 29 October, but you can put your copy on hold today.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
William Shakespeare's The Force Doth Awaken
Doescher, Ian
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

As I’ve been working my way through Ian Doescher’s Shakespearean adaptations of pop culture movies, I think I’ve hit the point where the novelty has worn off. For whatever reason, I didn’t feel like The Force Doth Awaken had the same charm as other entries in this quirky mash-up series. I have a sneaking suspicion that this may be due to one of two factors: 1. The newer movies have more “modern” dialogue that seemed as if it was directly plopped into the Shakespearean format, or 2. The original trilogy had more time to be ingrained in my psyche, and the translation to Shakespearean felt appropriate.

I don’t want to downplay the novelty of this adaptation, though. The voice acting is still superb, and the sound effects add a little something extra that immersed me as I listened to this audiobook. Plus, it’s not like these books are that lengthy anyway. If anything, I’m out a little over an hour of my time to listen to it (since I listen at 2x speed). I did appreciate that Chewie finally received the internal monologue that R2-D2 originally had since these un-translatable individuals still have something to add. I was, however, disappointed that BB-8 didn’t have the same treatment.

One of the other factors with this “translation” that I wasn’t too keen on was the meta aspect that kept winking at the reader and saying, “See? Do you get that reference?” I understand that everything exists in the Star Wars universe, but I think most people who will pick up this book will already know those references anyway and don’t need the coy allusions to other parts of the series. Of course, I’ll still end up listening to the rest of these when I can get them from my library, but The Force Doth Awaken felt like a low point (at least until I get into the prequels).

An almost too modern and meta Shakespearean adaptation, I give The Force Doth Awaken 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Mortal Engines
Reeve, Philip
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In yet another case of watching a movie first before reading the books, I finally got around to reading Mortal Engines after absolutely loving the 2018 movie. While I understand middle-grade or Young Adult readers are the intended audiences, it left me wanting in its presentation. Sure, most of the elements that made it into the film were there (with some less-than-necessary parts being cut from the screenplay for obvious reasons), but the way it was written felt a bit too flowery for my tastes. In fact, the engineer in me would have loved a lot more world-building than I got in this short volume. I did still appreciate the post apocalyptic steampunk world of Mortal Engines—if for no other reason than its ridiculous premise. The idea that whole cities would transform into moving monstrosities that devour lesser towns in a “predator and prey” relationship is such an intriguing notion that I had to give it a chance. Even if I don’t expect there to be movies to finish out the adaptation of the quartet of books, I can definitely look forward to exploring the rest of this series to have my world-building needs satiated in the next volume.

While the young protagonists were flat and singularly minded, some of the adults had enough meat on them to make their actions reasonable and realistic. Sure, there are always going to be clichés in stories meant for younger audiences. However, I don’t usually tolerate character-based clichés as much as I do plot-based ones. And while the writing certainly had a creative bent to its vocabulary, it became tiresome having to sit through it for a whole book. Purple prose is good in short bursts, but too much of a good thing can ruin the immersion of the reader.

A fantastic idea with semi-flat characters and far too flowery language, I give Mortal Engines 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Book Review: War Girls
Onyebuchi, Tochi
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Onyii and Ify live as sisters in an all-girls refugee/war camp on the edge of the Redlands, an area riddled with radiation from a long-ago nuclear disaster. Nigeria, their home, is in the midst of a civil war. Children are conscripted as soldiers and pilots for mechanized warrior robots. Onyii and Ify are separated, and as truths are revealed to each of them, they must decide where, and with whom, their loyalties lie all while trying not to die a terrible death in a bloody civil war.

Going into this, I knew nothing about the Nigeria - Biafran civil war of the 1960s, which is at the heart of this novel. Personally, I enjoy learning about parts of history that I know nothing about (I typically don’t gravitate to one of the 1,983,784,767 WWII novels, for example), and I really enjoyed the unique setting. The book is set in the future, and the futuristic elements really added a lot to the plot and were well employed by the author. Onyii, for example, is an Augment, meaning that she’s a little bit of a bionic woman. While I didn’t really relate to the main characters, I did really like them. They didn’t always make the best decisions, but their decisions made sense to their characters and their respective arcs. They were easy to root for. Really, my only complaint was that it felt overlong, and I skimmed through some of the battle scenes, but that’s more a matter of personal preference.

TLDR: Looking for something to read after Children of Blood and Bone? You’ve found your next great Nigerian inspired read! (And, honestly, if you haven’t read Children of Blood and Bone but it’s on your TBR, I’d suggest replacing it with War Girls, which is a much more original, engaging book). For readers who like apocalyptic novels and futuristic sci-fi battles. 4 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and Razorbill for the eARC which I received in exchange for an honest review. War Girls will be available for purchase on 15 October, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt

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